Four Punjab ministers want Navjot Singh Sidhu to step down for his comment on CM Amarinder
A day after Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s statement that Congress president Rahul Gandhi is his captain and that chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh is “an army captain”, knives were out in the state Congress on Saturday with four ministers demanding Sidhu’s resignation as the local bodies minister.
Sidhu’s remarks at a press conference in poll- bound Hyderabad, where he was campaigning for the Congress, kicked up a political storm back home as the Amarinder camp took umbrage to former cricketer’s statement in which he had also said that it was Rahul who sent him to Pakistan to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor. Sidhu had gone to Pakistan even after Amarinder advised him against the visit.
Punjab rural development minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa, a Sidhu-baiter and Amarinder loyalist, was the first to ask the Amritsar East MLA to put in his papers if he doubts the leadership and capabilities of the chief minister. “Rahul is the captain of the entire Congress. But Amarinder is the undisputed leader of the Punjab Congress. The tone and body language used by Sidhu for the CM was humiliating and disgusting. He has no moral right to continue as minister,” he said, adding: “Sidhu is a man in a hurry. He has high dreams. But he needs to slow down and talk less, else he may fall.”
Endorsing Bajwa’s stand, revenue minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria said if Sidhu is not happy working as part of the Captain’s team, he should quit as a minister. “I feel what Sidhu said does not behove a minister. The tone and tenor he used for the CM was insulting.” By Saturday evening, two more cabinet ministers — Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot — joined the anti-Sidhu clamour. Sodhi said Amarinder was announced as the CM candidate by Rahul before elections. “If Sidhu feels the CM is not his captain, he should give up the position he occupies in his cabinet,” he said.
Dharamsot said a minister cannot say he is not answerable to the CM and be part of the team. He went a step further and reminded Sidhu that he was not sitting in a comedy show. “In a comedy show, people laugh at such things. But running a government is not a comedy show,” Dharamsot said.
Stopping short of demanding Sidhu’s resignation, jails minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said his body language at the press conference was not right. “Showing disrespect to the CM cannot be condoned in any government or party,” he said.
Sidhu, who is now campaigning in Rajasthan, swiftly tried to set the record straight and distances himself from the “Amarinder captain of army” remark, stating that it was made off-the-cuff after the press conference. “But I stand by my statement that Rahul is both my and Amarinder’s captain,” he said.
On the demand of ministers that he should step down, Sidhu said: “I am accountable to my conscience and the people of Punjab. I live in a space where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. If someone distorts my statement, it is not my fault. I have also said in the press conference that Amarinder is like my father.”
While other ministers chose to steer clear of the controversy, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, who is in Rajasthan for campaigning, was not available for comment.